As long as you’re not expecting to be drastically challenged you’re in safe hands.
Chris Jones 2008-01-24
So at last the ex-surfer and green activist singer-songwriter delivers his dubstep metal album…Oh alright, Sleep Through…isn't a whole lot different from the Hawaii-born musician's previous outings. Depending on whether you’re a fan this could be good or bad. It's so easy to point to Johnson and cry 'bland!' or 'cozy!', but it's hard to argue with a multi-platinum track record. His status as a household name will be undoubtedly reinforced by this well-nigh perfect example of all his best traits.
While Johnson has one mode of expression – a lazy, loping, bluesy feel underpinned with chiming acoustics and lightly brushed skins, never burdened with tricky key changes of rhythmic surprises – he does it excessively well. True, his delivery often falls on the wrong side of 'safe'. One longs for at least one ruggedly uptempo track filled with righteous bile. Yet, as Johnson himself states in Same Girl: ''I'm not a very good fighter am I?''
Johnson's admirable agenda of eco-love (a typical surfer’s stance, along with the vaguely cod-Zen philosophising) is well represented (All At Once) as are his anti-war feelings (the title track), but Sleep Through…is really the work of a man dealing with the dreadful burden of domestic bliss. It's filled with songs about his wife (Angel) and children (Go On). But then again, why not? It would be so easy to label Johnson as some bland poster boy for middle class mediocrity, yet a closer glimpse at his lyrics show a man who has both a soul and a brain. The only danger is that his style is so relaxed that the message often gets lost in the warmth of it all. Musically (the speed going from slow to fairly slow) it becomes an unvariegated lump of acoustic comfort: Charming but lacking a little bite. Yet it's expertly delivered.
That's what he’s good at. We should be thankful that someone so prominent is both concerned for the planet and our hearts. As long as you’re not expecting to be drastically challenged you’re in safe hands. And sometimes that's quite enough.